Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been on the phone to New Delhi, assuring his Indian counterpart that Australia is not a racist country. But what does he know?

Crikey headed to the site of Sunday night’s rally, to ask international students having lunch at Melbourne’s Federation Square whether they found Australia to be “a country of great diversity, harmony and tolerance.” Whether they felt, like the PM, they were part of a multicultural nation, of people who “respect and embrace diversity, diversity which has enriched our nation.”

Deepak Pant
Been in Australia 10 months, student

“So far, so good — until now. There is a section of the youth that is racist. They don’t have knowledge of Indian people and for what they’re here, and how to react to people from other communities. Not everyone is like that, but there is a certain section of people. It’s mostly the youth.

“Indians are soft targets. They’re away from their family, they live alone, they can’t do anything.

“My family keep calling to ask if I’m okay. People get carried away. I’m getting sick of all the phone calls.”

Asim Masood
Been in Australia 10 months, student.

“There were these four white guys, and they said, ‘hey you, curry-Indian.’

“And I said, ‘no, I’m from Pakistan.’

“They said, ‘oh, no, it’s okay.’

“And they left me alone. I don’t know why, but it is Indians who are targeted.”

Varinder Singh
Punjab, India
Been in Australia one year, student

“There’s so many nationalities living here — Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan — and sometimes they don’t like each other. Sometimes we are on the train, shouting at each other, laughing, and some people don’t like that and they think we are silly, we are fools. And that is when there is racism.

“We are seen as easy targets. We have the fear that if we get into fights we have to go to the police station and it affects our PR.

“We can say this because it hasn’t happened to us. But also, this country is like our motherland. It has given us each and everything. Why would we want to fight it?”

Harkirangid Singh
Punjab, India
Been in Australia two years, recent graduate of hospitality administration, now working as a pastry chef

“Certain people are racists, but you can’t say Australia is a racist country. We don’t say anything. We’ve just come here to study, we don’t want to fight.

“It’s not just a matter of Indian students. It’s a matter of humans.”